When Ontario’s dispute with teachers shut down extracurricular activities, one high school newspaper editor refused to let his paper stop publishing, writes Toronto Star's public editor Kathy English.

By Kathy English, public editor of The Toronto Star

When last year’s labour dispute between Ontario and its teachers shut down extracurricular activities in schools, high school newspaper editor Jolson Lim was determined to keep his presses running.

The then-executive editor of The Riverdale Spectator, the award-winning school newspaper of Toronto’s Riverdale Collegiate, organized and led a team of students who met clandestinely to ensure the paper got published and students got their news.

Lim, now studying journalism at Carleton University, was honoured last month at the Toronto Star’s 18th annual High School Newspaper Awards for his “outstanding journalistic potential and strength of character.” He won the annual Brad Henderson Award, given in the name of the former Star senior manager who started the awards in 1995 and died in 2008.

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“Like many good journalists faced with a roadblock he refused to be stymied by the shutdown of the student paper,” teacher Andre Simoneau, the founder and adviser to the student paper, who has himself long been passionate about journalism, said in nominating Lim for this award for his work during his last year of high school.

As editor, Lim organized writers and photographers, assigned stories, edited articles and designed and laid out pages. He also oversaw the business side of publishing — “hounding” the school’s principal for funding, selling ads, arranging printing and delivery of two issues of The Spectator.

“While his passion for writing was never in question, I was more than impressed by his fortitude and resolve in his quest to continue publishing,” said Simoneau, who was quietly supportive of Lim’s “drive and desire” in the face of the shut down of student extracurricular activities.

“He was relentless in his pursuit to continue publishing the school paper.”

The Toronto Star’s High School Newspaper Awards initiative is an important investment in journalism’s future, celebrating the best high school journalists in the province. In a time when the future of journalism is debated endlessly at global conferences, it is comforting to know that journalism still matters to a good many high school students — our journalists and readers of the future.

Some 800 entries are received each year in 22 categories including reporting, feature writing, opinion writing, photography, best newspaper and best electronic newspaper. Winners are honoured at a lunch held at the Star’s Vaughan Press Centre.

For those of us long-time journalists who serve as judges of the student work, this is always an inspiring event, a vivid reminder of the idealism and passion for journalism that sparked our own careers and eternally fuels the best journalism. Indeed, a number of us fell in love with journalism while working for our high school papers.

To continue reading this column, please go thestar.com where this was originally published.

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Tamara Baluja is an award-winning journalist with CBC Vancouver and the 2018 Michener-Deacon fellow for journalism education. She was the associate editor for J-Source from 2013-2014.